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DA speaks out against Scorpions Bill

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that the Bill abolishing the Scorpions and amalgamating them into a police directorate will dramatically undermine the fight against crime, and against organised crime in particular.

In addition, if the General Laws Amendment Bill, which was tabled in Parliament this week, is left unamended, said DA spokesperson Diane Kohler-Barnard on Wednesday, it will violate key constitutional principles such as the separation of powers, opening the door to future abuses of power by the police.

”As such, the DA will do all in its power to ensure that the Bill does not become law,” she said.

Kohler-Barnard said that the fight against crime was being compromised by the closing down of three specialised units (the Scorpions and the commercial and organised crime units).

”Experience has shown,” she said, ”that specialised units are the most effective method with which to combat priority crimes. The amalgamation of these units will dilute the expertise contained in these units, which will in turn lead to a lowering of morale.

”The proposed Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [DCPI] will precipitate the excessive centralisation of power in the South African Police Service. The DPCI will be selected, supervised and funded by the police — thereby undermining, for example, the fight against corruption in the police force, as the police are unlikely to investigate themselves.”

The DA said that excessive powers would also be invested in the police commissioner, who will completely undermine the independence of the new unit. The commissioner would be able to determine who the unit is allowed to investigate, ”which would preclude, for example, the bringing of fraud and corruption charges such as those against suspended police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi”.

The DA objects to the unit being given the power to issue its own summonses and hold closed commissions of inquiry without any judicial scrutiny or civilian oversight. ”This kind of power in the hands of the police harks back to the apartheid era where the police were accountable neither to the courts nor to the public,” Kohler-Barnard said

”Furthermore, by granting the police the power to issue their own summonses, the Bill undermines the constitutionally protected independence of the judiciary.

”Finally, if someone is called before a commission of inquiry instituted by the new unit, all evidence obtained from that person becomes derivative and cannot be used in criminal proceedings against that individual. Thus a well-connected criminal can be summoned to appear before a police commission of inquiry and walk away without facing criminal charges — so long as he gives some information. He can then never be prosecuted in respect of the information given.”

This undermines the independence of the director of public prosecutions, who is only person legally entitled to decide who gets prosecuted and for what. — I-Net Bridge

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Michael Hamlyn
Michael Hamlyn works from Cape Town. Late middle age journalist

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